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Edinburgh Council comes out in favour of RMJM's 'flawed masterpiece'

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Post-Modernism lives on in Edinburgh. Earlier today (20 February) the city council refused permission for SMC Hugh Martin to demolish RMJM’s 1985 Distillers building – recently dubbed a ‘flawed masterpiece’ by its original designers.

SMC Hugh Martin had wanted to replace the abandoned concrete, early Post-Modernist office block in the West Murrayfield Conservation area with 119 flats – to the dismay of conservationists (AJ 06.12.07).

However, the planning committee said the ‘proposed demolition would result in the loss of a building which is of value and makes a positive contribution to [the conservation area]'.

The council also branded SMC Hugh Martin’s scheme as ‘of an inappropriate design… due to scale, height, massing and use of materials’.

The decision was welcomed by Miles Glendinning, director of the Scottish Centre of Conservation Studies.

He said: 'Thank goodness. This seems like an outbreak of the most tremendous common sense on the part of the local planning system.

'This shows it is not necessary for buildings to be listed – and to go through all this politically awkward controversy about whether something listed – for an unbearable demolition to be picked up at the planning application stage. Three cheers for the local authority for picking this up.'

But Neil Baxter, of Neil Baxter Associates, who carried out a survey of the building on behalf of SMC Hugh Martin, was not convinced by the decision to save the block.

He said: 'Aesthetically, the building has some merits, but functionally it falls far short of what would be required for present-day office use.'

It is unknown whether SMC Hugh Martin will appeal against the decision.

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